Puberty in a South Korean culture


I’m a 22 year old girl living in Montgomery County, Maryland. I’m writing to you because I just got back from the library and while looking for a new book to read, I walked by the Alice series. I saw them and was transported back in time to when I was in middle school and early high school and spent my summer vacations reading ALL of the Alice books. I grew up with her and her friends (and it was easy to do so since she lived in Maryland as well, so the places she mentioned were familiar to me and made her seem more real) and I’ve pretty much forgotten how she was such a big part of my teen years, until I saw your books again at the library the other day. I decided to contact you (I hope you read this eventually) and thank you for writing those books. I read a lot growing up, but no series impacted me more than the Alice series (except maybe Harry Potter) because she and her friends went through and talked about the things that my parents and I weren’t comfortable discussing. I’m Korean American and was born in South Korea but moved to Maryland when I was six years old. While I’m extremely proud of my heritage, the honest truth is that I am culturally American simply because I grew up here. However, my parents are still very much Korean and our culture has somewhat of a stigma against discussing things like sex, crushes, and basically everything that girls experience while going through puberty, so I didn’t have someone I could turn to if I wanted to talk about anything like that. Of course, I had my friends, but I still didn’t feel like I had anyone I could completely trust and confide in, because you know how teenage girls can be. I even started writing myself, typing journal entries into my computer every now and then to get some of my thoughts organized, and part of this was inspired by your books because of the way Alice was so introspective at times. Reading the Alice books reassured me that the things I was feeling were totally normal, and helped me go through somewhat of a normal “American” puberty process in a household that was less than understanding about it. All of my friends were white and didn’t understand the idea of a cultural gap between someone and their parents. I’m so glad I decided to check out your books 10 years ago and I will be sure to recommend Alice to my children someday.

Phyllis replied:

Thank you so much for your wonderful email.  I know it will be helpful to a number of girls.  I think you might find, however, that you don’t have to be from another culture to feel that there are many things you can’t bring up with your parents.  Many, many American mothers are uncomfortable talking about certain things with their daughters, and vice versa.  From letters I receive, parents sometimes answer questions by saying, “Why do you want to know?” or “You’re too young to know,” or “Why are you even thinking about this?”  I remember asking  questions of my mother when I was nine or ten, and she answered as honestly as she could, and I’ve always appreciated that.  But when I was a teen, she initiated a couple of topics, perhaps hoping I would discuss them with her, but I was too embarrassed myself.  I’m so very glad that the books helped you.

Posted on: October 25, 2017


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